General · reading

Banned Book Week, 2020

It is banned book week once more, a week to celebrate literacy and reading.

I haven’t been keeping track of banned book weeks for the past couple of years and this year I decided to take a look.

This year’s top ten list of banned books from the ALA include:

  1. George by Alex Gino
    Reasons: Challenged, banned, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content, conflicting with a religious viewpoint, and not reflecting “the values of our community”
  2. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds
    Reasons: Banned and challenged because of author’s public statements, and because of claims that the book contains “selective storytelling incidents” and does not encompass racism against all people
  3. All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, drug use, and alcoholism, and because it was thought to promote anti-police views, contain divisive topics, and be “too much of a sensitive matter right now”
  4. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
    Reasons: Banned, challenged, and restricted because it was thought to contain a political viewpoint and it was claimed to be biased against male students, and for the novel’s inclusion of rape and profanity
  5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and allegations of sexual misconduct by the author
  6. Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin
    Reasons: Challenged for “divisive language” and because it was thought to promote anti-police views
  7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for racial slurs and their negative effect on students, featuring a “white savior” character, and its perception of the Black experience
  8. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for racial slurs and racist stereotypes, and their negative effect on students
  9. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
    Reasons: Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and depicts child sexual abuse
  10. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
    Reasons: Challenged for profanity, and it was thought to promote an anti-police message

The list has changed a lot since the last time I looked at it, and I don’t remember when that was. A few years back anyway.

I have heard of only four books: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, Of Mice and Men by John Steinback, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.

I have read only two: Of Mice and Men by John Steinback and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Of Mice and Men was required reading in school and I remember nothing of it.

It seems George has been on the list for the past few years and I hadn’t even heard of it.

All American Boys has “too much of a sensitive matter right now” as a reason to ban it and I really don’t know what that means. I wonder if that means there will come a time when it is not banned because the matter is no longer sensitive.

General

Best Reads of 2012

I’ve read so many books this year I don’t remember all of them. So many books that reading interfered with the writing. Which is not okay, but I can accept it.

So these the best of the books I do recall reading. If there is one thing this list is based on, it is how memorable the books are, how much I liked it, how much I re-read each book. That list bit, re-rereading, probably puts a basis on books from the beginning of the year, since there’s been more time to re-read a book from January than the book I finished last week. At the same time, I am more likely to recall the book I finished yesterday than the book I finished in January. I figure that evens things out.

So in no particular order:

1) A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

I read A Natural History as an ARC, it comes out on February 5, 2013, and I still have to do a review on it. But let me just say it’s fabulous. It’s written as a memoir of a old lady who had the most fantastic adventures in her youth. She studies dragons, falls head long into danger and apparently does something for the cause of feminism. She also gets her husband killed, which leaves me wondering how she acquired the title Lady Trent. I like the matter-of-fact way this is written. I can almost believe this is a real memoir. It’s very different (and also much better IMO) than previous Marie Brennan books.

2) Goblin Quest by Jim Hines

Funny, full of adventure, and also has goblins as I never pictured them before. Fun to read and I cannot wait to get started on the next Goblin book.

3) Men Under the Mistletoe by Ava March, Harper Fox, Josh Lanyon & K.A. Mitchell.

This is an ARC from last Christmas, one I only got around to reading in January of this year. 😉 But it’s one I’ve re-read again and again and again. I said in the review that Winter Knights Harper Fox is the best story, but I keep re-reading the Lone Star by Josh Lanyon. I don’t actually understand why.

4) The Serpent Sea by Martha Wells

This is another book I’ve re-read a few times. It’s good. I love love love the world and the main character. I want more books in this world. I don’t think Martha Wells has come close to plumbing the depths. Even if she chose a different main character, I wouldn’t mind, I love this world so much. It’s beautiful and magical and really vivid.

5) Imagine by Jonah Lehrer

This is probably the only non-fiction book on this list. It’s about imagination and creativity and how it all works. Very interesting.

6) Stars & Stripes by Abigail Roux

I don’t know how many times I’ve re-read Stars & Stripes. A lot. I don’t know what it is, the romance, the ridiculous danger or the characters. This one is special is because the main characters come out to their family, act openly like a couple for maybe the first time. There is even talk of children. Next, they need to come out at work.

7) Bridge of Dreams by Anne Bishop

I don’t know how long I waited for Bridge of Dreams to come out (ever since I heard about a new Anne Bishop book probably). It’s worth the wait and explores the word in far greater detail, has far more bizarre creatures than I dreamed even Anne Bishop to come with and make work. I loved it, and yes, this too is a book I’ve re-read a few times.

8) Servant of the Underworld by Aliette de Bodard

I’m pretty sure Servant of the Underworld is a first novel and it is amazing. It doesn’t feel like a first novel at all. I can quite decide if this fantasy or urban fantasy or something in between, but whatever it is, this book pulls you in.

9) To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to include this in a Best Reads list, but even though I never really re-read, it is still worth reading and not a book I am likely to forgot anytime soon so . . .

I don’t know what else to add. 9 are probably enough. But in case they are not, here are some honorable mentions:

1) Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold: I love Lois McMaster Bujold and I wanted to add this just for that, but I don’t think it stands out quite enough for a Best Read novel. 😦

2) Cake by Derekica Snake

I feel that Cake could have been stand-out, but it’s missing something. I don’t know what. It’s a disturbing and exciting all at once, but it needs something.Memorable, though, if only for how disturbing it is.

3) Confessions of a Murder Suspect by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro

Finished this just yesterday and fun fun fun read. Fun!!!! Also, quick. Took only a few hours to finish reading.

4) Black Sun Rising by CS Friedman

I love the setting, the system of magic. Very imaginative. I like the anti-hero. Very nice. But I am not sure about this one yet. I need a little bit more time to digest, I think. It falls in some bizarre science fantasy category, though I put it on my fantasy shelf.

Covers to come later!

Book Review · reading

Book Review: To Kill A Mockingbird

I never had to read To Kill A Mockingbird in high school. Just as well. The bulk of the books I was forced to read in high school were boring. To Kill A Mockingbird doesn’t really have the blood and mayhem like the Anita Blake books or the In Death series or David Weber’s books.

But, for banned book week, from September 30 2012 to October 6, 2012, I decided to read To Kill A Mockingbird.

It’s not as boring as I expected. It doesn’t have nearly the same level of suspense and tension as my preferred reads, but it wasn’t boring. Having said that, I don’t know if I’ll ever read it again.

To Kill A Mockingbird is supposed to be a first novel. Frankly, that’s hard to believe. It may be the first (and last!) novel published, but that doesn’t mean it’s the first novel Harper Lee wrote. To Kill A Mockingbird is written very well. It shows the growth of Scott – yes, despite the reviews stating none of the characters grew at all, there is character growth. It is gently shown, gently depicted, so gently you hardly notice it at all. It is all so well-done I can’t believe this is a first novel. I can’t even believe she stopped writing after she finished To Kill A Mockingbird.

I knew from the first sentence that the book took place during in the Depression. The family must have been truly rich before the Depression, to be able to afford a cook and housekeeper during the Depression.

At first, I thought Scout was a boy. Scout isn’t a name I associate with a girl. Plus, it’s the 1930’s, and she doesn’t act the way I imagined girls in the 1930’s acted. She’s a tomboy. I only realized Scout is a girl when someone says her full name. Than I thought: wow, she’s a girl. How wonderful.

I found a couple of things odd in To Kill A Mockingbird:

1)      Scout and her brother call their Dad by his first name: Atticus

2)      On her first day of school, Scout’s teacher is upset because she can already read and write. Part of me is not surprised because I, too, had a teacher who told me not to write in cursive since it hadn’t actually been taught yet. But I don’t understand a teacher who would be upset because her student could already read.

To Kill A Mockingbird is known for being a coming-of-age novel and it is banned for offensive language and racism.

I don’t think anyone can deny there is racism in the book, but the main characters are not racist. Quite the opposite. Many of the other characters are racist, and yeah, that undoubtedly influences the feel of the book.

Scout’s aunt’s group of ladies are supposed to be good, Christian women but in one breath they praise god, the next breath they make racist comments. They don’t see it, and yeah, I think that’s deliberate. I am not sure how Calpurnia (the black cook) stood it. I suppose she wasn’t causing waves, doing her job, stuff like that. Still. I am surprised Calpurnia was able to hold her tongue.

Then there is the whole trial involving Tom Robinson. It was a real trial, and the some of the characters say that was odd. Still. Apparently Tom Robinson never stood a chance. That’s probably what prompted his escape attempt – he didn’t believe justice was possible. The white girl was clearly lying, possible being molested by her own father (she did say kissing her father didn’t count, didn’t she? I don’t know. Possible child molestation there. Not sure.) But lying for sure and no one on the jury cared. It’s not hard to understand why Tom Robinson didn’t believe justice was possible for him.

So, yeah, there is racism in the book. But it’s not really depicted in a positive way. More tragic and sad. I really don’t think that is a reason to ban or try to ban a book.

Offensive language – yes, there is offensive language in To Kill A Mockingbird. Most of them involve race. Many times they are directed at Scout’s father for actually defending a black man. Scout uses offensive words to try and get out of going to school. (She fails in this attempt.) The offensive words don’t show up for no reason, and they don’t show up all that often, either. I really don’t think that is a reason to ban or try to ban a book, either.

I’d heard To Kill A Mockingbird is a coming-of-age novel, but I don’t think it is. At least, it doesn’t go far enough. To me coming-of-age means you are growing up and going through the worse trials of growing up. It’s the transition from childhood to adulthood.

At the beginning of the book Scout is 6 years old and 9 years old at the end. She grows a lot, learns a lot in those three years. 9 isn’t grown up. She still’s a child. At the end of the book, she’s puts herself in Boots’ shoes and regrets she never paid him back for all the little gifts he gave them.

But she still has a lot of growing left to do. She still has to go through the teen years, still has to go through High School. High School will likely be more difficulty than her life so far. Not least, because she still has to yet learn girl skills. Or maybe she doesn’t. But in the time she is living, being a tomboy will only draw criticism. Which sucks, yeah, but gender roles were a lot more fixed back then. I suspect stepping out of gender roles would be very very difficult and likely require all the wisdom she learned from her father. (He raised her to be who she is.)

reading · Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesday: To Kill A Mockingbird

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

I am reading To Kill A Mockingbird for the very first time in honor of Banned Book Week. My teaser:

I was bored, so I began a letter to Dill. Miss Caroline caught me writing and told me to tell my father to stop teaching me. “Besides,” she said. “We don’t write in the first grade, we print. You won’t learn to write until you’re in the third grade.”

– To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

General · reading

Banned Books Week 2012

Banned books week starts tomorrow, September 30 2012. It ends next Saturday on October 6, 2012.

There is even a youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/bannedbooksweek

The point is to celebrate books that people want to ban. This year that list includes:

  1. ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
    Reasons: offensive language; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
  2. The Color of Earth (series), by Kim Dong Hwa
    Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
  3. The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
    Reasons: anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence
  4. My Mom’s Having A Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy, by Dori Hillestad Butler
    Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
  5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
    Reasons: offensive language; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
  6. Alice (series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
    Reasons: nudity; offensive language; religious viewpoint
  7. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
    Reasons: insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit
  8. What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
    Reasons: nudity; offensive language; sexually explicit
  9. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily Von Ziegesar
    Reasons: drugs; offensive language; sexually explicit
  10. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
    Reasons: offensive language; racism

The Hunger Games, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Brave New World and What My Mother Doesn’t Know appear on last year’s list, too. I suppose people felt threatened by them two years running.

I have only read Brave New World and The Hunger Games. For Hunger Games, the only reason I can understand is violence. The other reasons – anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic – baffle me. Occult? Satanic? I must have missed the occult and the satanic. Offensive language? I don’t remember any. At least not a lot. Anti-ethnic, anti-family, insensitivity? I am baffled.

Also, as an aside, last year Hunger Games was challenged for: sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and violence. Sexually explicit and unsuited to age group are no longer on the reasons list. I wonder if people suddenly decided it is suited to the age group? A little confusing . . .

People want to challenge Brave New World because of insensitivity, nudity, racism, religious viewpoint and sexually explicit. There is probably a certain amount of nudity in the book and I remember sex, too . . . but that’s doesn’t explain why people have banned it! If that was enough, the whole romance genre would be banned. And as for the others – insensitivity, racism, religious viewpoint – I don’t understand them at all.

The plan was to read a banned book this week, but I don’t know which. Truthfully, none of these books appeal. Anyway. Maybe To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s a classic; I should probably read it at some point.